Room for one

Interesting article in the NYT about how colleges are starting to accomodate the growing number of students who’ve never shared a room with anyone and don’t want to start now.

Colleges have always offered single rooms, and students have long moved off campus in search of greater privacy. But for the last decade, colleges across the country, in a high-priced competition for students who may be just as concerned with residential amenities as they are with the number of volumes in the library, have been responding by creating housing in which the single bedroom is the mainstay.

College administrators say they feel compelled, in part, to create more singles to keep students, mainly upperclassmen, on campus, where they will be more engaged in college life. In addition, the revenue that would go to private landlords is attractive.

The new buildings are called residence halls or even living/learning centers. (Do not call them dorms; to housing officials and builders, the term is as obsolete as the dorm mother or the telephone down the hall.) Students often live in suites, where they share living rooms and, sometimes, kitchens, but can retreat to their own bedrooms, with their own computers, television sets, DVD players and telephones.

“It’s a statement about the affluence of America,” said William Rawn, a Boston architect who is building residence halls, many of them with single bedrooms, at Northeastern University here in Boston, Trinity College in Hartford, Amherst, Swarthmore and Grinnell College, in Iowa. “And part of that affluence is that we lose the ability to share.”

I had pretty good luck with roommates and suitemates in college (at Trinity, two rooms share a bathroom; the people in that other room are called “suitemates”). After freshman year, you can pick who you want to live with, which helps a lot.

The first roommate I had was a guy who had clearly never shared a room with anyone else in his life. He had no clue how to get dressed or undressed while someone else was in the room sleeping. (This was never much of a problem when I lived with my buddy Greg for my junior and senior years. We usually went to bed at the same time, I always got up earlier than he did, and he could sleep through Armageddon. The only problem was his chainsaw-like snoring, which I eventually learned to tune out – another life experience that a roommate-free existence deprives you of.) Other people had issues with things like boundaries, food ownership, taste in music, and of course, roommates’ boyfriends/girlfriends. If nothing else, the worse the experience, the better the war stories. A guy I know has a story about a tennis ball in the toilet bowl, which is still one of the funniest (and most disgusting) roommate tales I’ve ever heard.

Not that any of this is a big deal. Given the costs of the colleges listed, only a privileged few will make it out into the Real World without ever having to share a bathroom or refrigerator with non-family members. Those who go on to live with a spouse or partner will undoubtedly come to wish they’d learned a few basic lessons in Roommate Maintenance first. Karma always evens out in the end.

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5 Responses to Room for one

  1. Boy, for those who never had a roommate, not even in college, geting married will sure be a rude shock.

  2. FHC says:

    Agreed. I went to boarding school in 8th grade and spent 3 of my high school years in boarding school. As an only child, this was my first and best opportunity to learn to share space with another person.

  3. 90210 says:

    I actually found not having a roommate much more challenging. I had a really hard time getting anything done without another person there, and I got kinda lonely. It helped me learn self-discipline, and my social relationships were stronger because I wasn’t just relying on the convenient roommates. I’d much rather have a roommate than not. (As long as the room is big enough– that might be a part of what they’re paying for).

  4. Charles says:

    I recall my days in 1975 as a freshman in the dorms. I shared a double-ocupancy room with two others (yes, three total). One roommate was a junkie just back from Nam, the other was a moron who kept asking me how to read the difficult words in his textbooks like “through.” Everything of value that I owned gradually was stolen. I quickly learned a life lesson: I don’t EVER want to live with junkies or morons.

  5. ChuckEye says:

    At Case Western I lived in a suite — 6 individual rooms, no more than 4′ x 8′ sharing a living room and bathroom. There were 4 suites per floor in a cross configuration. Floors were co-ed, suites were not. The rooms were so small, you really only stayed in them when you were doing homework or sleeping, and otherwise you’d leave your door open. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having to share a room with someone else.

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